What is retirement in 2022?

If our jobs define us, who are you after you retire, asks Cathy Parker. And how can leaders hold onto these valuable employees?

One of my close contacts posed a recent question recently, what does retirement look like these days?

This is somewhat of a multifaceted question – his take was mostly around how so much of our identity is linked to our jobs – our jobs define us – so if you retire, who are you? And how do you recreate your identity after retirement?

Allied to this though is how life expectancy and health and fitness have changed. When I was younger the general life expectancy was 70 – you retired at 60 and had a short retirement period to enjoy.

Now NZ Super starts at 65, but people would expect to live in reasonable health to their mid-80s or early 90s which makes retirement much longer and most people at 65 (and well beyond) are still very fit and active.

Financially having the resources, especially in the current high inflation situation, for 20-30 years of retirement is very challenging for most people – not to mention occupying their time for 20-plus years!

This is changing the dynamics of staff where many no longer want to retire at 60 or 65 (which is perhaps fortuitous given the current staff shortages) with many 65+ people looking to continue working either out of financial necessity (or at least prudence) and because they are not ‘ready’ to retire and lose that job identity.

For businesses, these are experienced and valued employees. Employers should look at how they can best retain them to help ease ongoing staff pressures. Maybe they would prefer less than the standard 40-hour week, and the ability to work from home (or the bach) could be particularly attractive in terms of flexibility (work in the morning; golf or fishing in the afternoon anyone?)

Why would you want to lose this expertise built up over the years and their client and product knowledge, if there is a way to retain it and have them available to support or train new staff?

The other advantage is that if you structure the job to suit their requirements, they are unlikely to jump ship to another employer as readily as younger employees.

Going back to the individual, the other option if you do retire is how can you keep some income coming in, and the answer may be to look at what the younger generation are doing – start a side hustle.

To be fair, the older generation have always done this – it was just not called a side hustle, but rather setting up a business as a consultant!

Often this involves contracting back to previous employers, or to others, but the options are now much wider. Online training courses can provide a good income if you have suitable expertise, or various kinds of freelancing are made easier by online platforms.

If you have a strong interest, a YouTube channel or podcast may be an option – they are not just the province of younger people. In fact, some of the ones I listen to regularly are definitely produced by people nearer retirement age than starting out in their careers. So maybe you can forge a whole new ‘job identity’ in retirement.   

Cathy Parker is the managing director of Adrenalin Publishing, the owner of Management magazine, and she sits on a number of boards.

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